‘I’ve never experienced anything like it’: police ‘uplifted’ by spending time with donkeys

  • A group of police officers came away “uplifted” and relaxed from a wellbeing session with a herd of donkeys.

    Residents of The Donkey Sanctuary’s Leeds centre met officers from West Yorkshire Police. The visit was arranged thanks to former police officer Kate Edwards, who joined the Leeds team as an equine assistant this year, and “saw the positive benefit the donkeys could have on the welfare of her former police colleagues”.

    Kate, who was a police officer for nearly 20 years, “found that like many of her colleagues, she had sometimes disregarded the importance of her wellbeing and self-care”, a spokesman for the charity said.

    Kate added: “From my time in the police, I had first-hand experience of how pressured and mentally draining daily life can become.

    “In the dictionary, wellbeing is defined as being comfortable, healthy and happy, and far too often we neglect our mental wellbeing. We can often overlook and fail to recognise our thoughts and feelings, making us miss opportunities to manage the pressures of daily life.

    “Now in my new role, I am lucky enough to be able to champion donkeys and the beneficial donkey-assisted activity programmes available at our Leeds sanctuary.”

    The officers came in two groups of six, to enjoy a “showcase presentation”, after which they met the herd.

    “The groups went on to prepare and take part in elements of a donkey-assisted activity session, followed by some donkey enrichment, allowing everyone to gain an understanding of how valuable a good mental state is to both donkeys and humans,” the spokesman said.

    “The morning concluded with each participant taking a donkey on a group mindful walk around the sanctuary’s sensory track.”

    One of the officers said this walk was the highlight of the day, as it was “peaceful and allowed me to take in the moment”. Another said: “I was quite nervous and sceptical about our visit, though I quickly realised that donkeys are not the animals I believed them to be. They are so intelligent and emotive.”

    A third officer added: “I have never experienced anything like it, it was a delight and it left me feeling uplifted.”

    Kate said the sanctuary lives up to its name.

    “The Donkey Sanctuary is just that – a safe welcoming place for discovery, learning and empowerment,” she said.” In a high stress job like the police, it can be very difficult for officers to regulate their own mental health, often pouring all their time into helping others and forgetting to look after themselves.

    “My friends at West Yorkshire Police gave overwhelmingly positive feedback about how visiting the donkeys helped them find some needed relaxation, and I’m so pleased we were able to offer them the opportunity to take time out from their busy frontline roles.”

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